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(2022 - Zillion Watt Records - Italy)
This 2022 full length by Sterbus kicks into high gear with a knockout array of styles in rapid succession, ranging from The Beatles, Cardiacs, and many avant to outright thick heavy chord progressions fit for fans of Fred Firth inspired masterpieces like Massacre. What a journey "Solar Barbecue" takes the listener on. If one most referenced comparison can be named it would be Tim Smith (Cardiacs, among many other projects). Some may recall the previous Sterbus album "Let Your Garden Sleep In" (2021) was in itself quite a tribute to Tim. It is no secret that one of the reasons Sterbus got so recognized in the odd pop/rock/avant off kilter world is by being somewhat similar to Cardiacs and attracting fans of that very band. It is the fearless boundary surfing that gains the most praise here. Any former fan of composer, guitarist, vocalist, arranger Emanuele Sterbini (vocals, classical, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, synth strings) will not be disappointed with the fine skill set put forth.
That sound that Sterbus creates is paired with partner Dominique D'Avanzo (vocals, clarinet, flute) who adds the female touch to the ensemble. With her playful and absolute immaculate balance of harmony in all the right places, Dominique plays the role of the 'cannot exist without her' part. However on this album, it is a collection of instrumentals that Emmanuele put together with a few remakes of old tracks, where Dominique contributes her instrumental talents like recorder, clarinet, gong, tenor sax, etc. She does add vocals to the track "Razor Legs", (a track from “Real Estate/Fake Inverno” - 2018). You can find a song by song listing of all the musicians who played on this special release at the Bandcamp link I listed under the header of this review. Be sure to BUY a download (CD is now sold out) to support this wonderful outfit.
I spoke with Emmanuele about "Solar Barbecue" and he explained this was not really a greatest hits but a sampler for the thousands of people who are not familiar with the band. It is also a big thank you to all the fans who do know of the group. Some of the tunes are edited, and many are parts that formerly had no place just yet. Sterbini's last statement to me was "The core of Sterbus it's still me, the main songwriter, my significant other Dominique D'Avanzo, who writes lyrics and plays flute, clarinet, tenor sax and sings. Then Francesco, the producer, helped with cello, trumpet and trombone, and Riccardo is our keys player. The drummers are different for every tune, But one is Bob Leith from Cardiacs, which I adore!" For all who have hopes of brand new material to come, I was told they are always working on new material and at the moment, have enough to make four different albums. Clearly this does indeed sound all new, and should be taken as a new recording full of grand ideas and performance. RECOMMENDED!!!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 3 - 5 - 2023
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